The very distinctive taste of authentically prepared Pad Thai can now be found in Thai Restaurants in most cities worldwide, and is even available from your local supermarket as a ready-meal!.
There are many different regional variations of this dish, ranging from the substitution of tamarind & palm sugar for malt vinegar & granulated sugar, and the replacement of fish oil (the staple cooking ingredient in EVERY Thai dish) for thin or light soy sauce.
There is also the widescale desecration of this most noble Thai dish by many American restaurants who insist on adding TOMATO KETCHUP!!.
The Origins of Pad Thai:
The name Pad Thai literally means “Thai-style stir-fried noodles”, and to be named as such would indicate that it is a regional variation of a dish, rather than a dish that actually originated from Thailand.
The art of noodle cookery in most South-East Asian countries was actually introduced by the wave of immigrants who arrived from southern China and who settled within the region throughout the past century.They brought with them the basic rice noodles and their own ways of cooking them.
It was during the Asian recession that followed the Second World War, that the Thai government looked for ways to stem the massive tide of unemployment throughout the country and started the aggressive promotion of rice noodle production & the development of noodle shops.
The government organised the printing & circulation throughout the country of detailed instructions for how to make the noodles & a range of recipes that incorporated their use, this lead to the rice noodle becoming a staple part of the Thai diet, and indirectly to the emergence & popularity of Pad Thai today.
It is a little difficult to understand how such a simple dish as Pad Thai which even today is best served by “fast food” noodle carts, noodle shops or roadside eateries in Thailand is ACTUALLY the dish that most expensive restaurants are measured by.
Pad Thai(Thai style stir-fried Noodles)
10 oz dried flat Thai rice noodles – similar to Italian linguini, but made of rice
8-12 raw tiger prawns – with shells removed
3 shallots – sliced
2 fresh green or red chillies – minced
2 fresh eggs
1 cup fresh beansprouts
¼ cup ground or chopped peanuts (unsalted)
3 spring onions – finely sliced
1 cup fresh coriander – roughly chopped
3 Tablespoons peanut,coconut, or vegetable oil for frying
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 Tablespoon tamarind paste mixed with 3 Tablespoons of water
2 teaspoons chillie sauce
* Soak the rice noodles in a saucepan of cold water for 1 hour. Drain when ready to use.
* The noodles should still be firm and very chewy.
* Mix all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl until sugar dissolves then set aside.
* Place remaining oil in wok. Over medium-high heat, stir-fry shallots and chillies until fragrant (approx 1 minute).
* Add prawns and fry until pink (approx 1-2 minutes).
* Clear a space in the middle of the wok,crack eggs into it and stir-fry (like scrambled eggs) until they’re cooked.
* The eggs will have made the wok a little dry, add a little more oil and spread it around.
* Add the noodles,as you stir-fry them, drizzle the sauce over a little at a time (for even distribution of the sauce).
* Lift and turn the noodles very gently (or they will break up) to combine all the ingredients as you stir-fry (approx 1-2 minutes).
* The wok should be fairly dry at this point. If you find your noodles are sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a little more oil.
* Add bean sprouts, mixing well and stir-frying to combine. The noodles are cooked when they are soft, but still chewy in texture.
* If your noodles are still a little on the “hard” side, stir-fry a little longer over medium heat.
* If not salty enough, add 1-2 Tablespoons more fish sauce. If too sour, add a little white sugar, if too salty, add more lime juice.
* Remove from heat & serve immediately, placing the Pad Thai on the plate,sprinkle with spring onions, ground peanuts & coriander/basil.
* Finally squeeze fresh lime and eat !.